The coastal town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine is a perfect destination for a reprieve from the hustle of every day. Between its rich history, quaint local shops and boutiques, delicious dining, and world-class boat excursions, there are all kinds of fun things to do in Boothbay Harbor.
A 1,000-foot-long footbridge connects the east and west sides of the Harbor, allowing easy access for visitors to enjoy a plethora of fun activities.
You will be captivated by the quiet coves, rocky shores, and island lighthouses and by the warmth and friendliness of the locals, turning strangers into friends.
Getting to Know Boothbay Bay Harbor
Boothbay Harbor, located in Lincoln County in Maine, has a population of just over 2,000 people and includes the villages of Sprucewold, West Boothbay Harbor, and Bayville.
Boothbay’s first settlers were the Abenaki people who called the region Winnegance. In 1730, Colonel David Dunbar founded the town of Townsend, which was later renamed Boothbay in 1842. The town of Boothbay Harbor was incorporated as a separate community from Boothbay in 1889.
Boothbay Harbor was developed as an important fishing center, able to hold hundreds of ships in its port. Within 40 years, fishing and canning industries. Today, Boothbay Harbor is visited by thousands of people each year as they come for fresh seafood, a glimpse of marine life, and seaside relaxation.
Fascinating Facts About Boothbay Harbor
- The Semple shipyard in Boothbay Harbor built minesweepers for the U.S. Navy during World War II.
- Parts of the movie Carousel were filmed here.
- Hodgdon Yachts, the oldest boatbuilder in the United States operates a marina in Boothbay Harbor.
- The Boothbay Harbor Region hosts a number of fun festivals and events, making it a great place to visit any time of year.
Boothbay Harbor FAQs
Q: Where is Boothbay Harbor located?
A: It’s about 75 minutes from Portland via I-295 N and U.S. 1 N. It’s also less than an hour south of Augusta via ME-27.
Q: Is Boothbay Harbor Maine worth visiting?
A: Of course it is! It’s the perfect place for a day trip or a vacation and offers boating excursions, quaint shopping, high-quality seafood restaurants, and much more.
Q: What’s the weather like in Boothbay Harbor?
A: The summers are usually very comfortable and winters are usually snowy, windy, and freezing. It is also partly cloud year round.
Q: When is the best time to visit Boothbay Harbor?
A: Summer and fall are typically the best times of the year because the weather is warmer. But visitors are advised to pack/dress accordingly since they are visiting a coastal town.
Best Things to Do in Boothbay Harbor
Boothbay Harbor serves as a great place to stay during your Maine vacation as you travel along the Maine Coast. There’s so much to see and do here that you may want to plan for more than just a day trip.
Here are some of our favorite things to do in Boothbay Harbor:
Take a Scenic Drive to Ocean Point
One scenic drive from Boothbay Harbor is out to Ocean Point, to see the sunrise and sunset – drive the Ocean Point loop, bring a picnic to savor on the rocks, and enjoy the passing sailboats and views of lighthouses.
Go on a Boothbay Harbor Boat Tour
Boothbay Harbor has been referred to as the Boating Capital of New England. With over 25 daily boat excursions leaving right from the bustling harbor, there is an adventure waiting for travelers of all ages!
Outdoor activities are among the best things to do in Boothbay Harbor because of the town’s beautiful scenery, which is one of its main draws. There are lots of hiking trails and gardens to explore, and many boating companies offer water-based harbor tours.
Harbor tours are a great way to explore the area and see nearby islands, like Burnt Island, and further out to sea Monhegan Island.
Enjoy a romantic sunset schooner or speeding windjammer ride led by captains who have sailed all over the world. Visitors can also check out local boat yards to see the tradition of world-class boat building that is still alive today.
There are also many excursions that offer up close and personal encounters with Maine wildlife like puffins, seals, and even whales!
Departing daily from the docks are Balmy Days cruises, Schooners East Wind or Lazy Jack, and more, all offering harbor cruises, daily tours, and sunset excursions out to see Boothbay’s three lighthouses:
- Burnt Island Light,
- Ram Island Light,
- and the Cuckolds Light.
Boat tours are provided by a number of businesses in Boothbay Harbor, but Cap’n Fish’s Boat Trips offers some unique experiences. It offers tours that include watching puffins and dolphins in addition to whale watching. Along the coastline, you’ll also see a few lighthouses and other notable structures.
Consider boarding a windjammer or sailboat for smaller, more personalized boat tours. The oldest sailboat in the harbor, the Schooner Lazy Jack Cruises, offers two-hour tours and private charters. You’ll get expansive views of the coastal islands and mountains, in addition to a variety of marine wildlife and lighthouses.
Explore Burnt Island Lighthouse
Burnt Island Lighthouse, the second-oldest still standing in Maine, was constructed in 1821 and is accessible to the general public. It offers an outstanding, historic recreation and educational facility and is situated on a 5-acre island.
Through the living history lighthouse tour, you can travel back in time to the 1950s and discover how the lighthouse keeper and his family lived.
Try Out Your Sea Legs and Go Sea Kayaking
The best way to see Boothbay Harbor is by boat. Rent a kayak or paddleboard from Maine Kayak or Tidal Transet and paddle around the bay, passing lobster boats and magnificent pleasure yachts in the harbor, around McFarland Island, and out to Tumbler Island.
Boothbay Harbor is considered the best kayaking in Maine, you’ll soon “sea” why! With water ranging from open seas to more calm and protected rivers and inlets, there are plenty of opportunities for kayakers of all ages and skill levels.
You can bring your own kayak or get a rental at one of the many nearby shops. These rental shops also offer guided tours of the area, for kayakers to explore nearby islands or just paddle around the harbor at their leisure.
Take a Trip to Monhegan Island
If you are staying in Boothbay Harbor and have extra time, a trip to nearby Monhegan Island is absolutely worth your while.
Monhegan is a small rocky island approximately 10 miles off the coast of Boothbay Harbor, accessible by ferry. With no paved roads, cars, or streetlights and limited shops and inns, Monhegan is a unique escape from bustling towns.
The wooded Island is blessed with 17 miles of beautiful walking trails for any nature-lover to enjoy, but paths can be rough and rocky so remember to wear sensible shoes and consult local trail maps before setting off.
The Lighthouse on Monhegan was built in 1824 and is still actively shining. Views from the Lighthouse site are incredible, as one can see the entire village, harbor, mainland, and nearby islands.
The former lighthouse keeper’s house is now a museum focusing on the history and culture of the island. A trip to Monhegan Island via ferry is an unforgettable experience, but it’s a long trip out, so plan accordingly Keep your eyes peeled for Maine birds, dolphins, and more.
Go on Nature Walks and Explore Hiking Trails
Boothbay Harbor is also home to over a dozen stunning nature trails, so if you love to hike, you’ll have miles and miles of space to explore.
Penny Lake Preserve is a freshwater wetland located in the center of Boothbay Harbor. The 54-acre preserve is owned by the Boothbay Region Land Trust and has an accessible half-mile trail that crosses a wooden bridge. For people who use wheelchairs or have young children in strollers, this trail is ideal. Another half-mile trail is perfect for dog walkers, hikers, and runners.
Other Boothbay Region Land Trust Preserves
In addition to Penny Lake Preserve, there are other areas of land under the control of the Boothbay Region Land Trust that have hiking trails. The natural habitats and aesthetic appeal of the area are actively preserved by this nonprofit organization. It provides free public access to 26 preserves and more than 35 miles of hiking trails throughout the peninsula.
The Boothbay Region Land Trust preserves over 20 miles of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy year-round. Trails range from easy to challenging and are suitable for visitors of all ages.
Additional Hiking in Boothbay Harbor
Trek through scenic meadowlands, forests, wetlands, and rocky coastline that all make up beautiful Boothbay Harbor – you may even encounter some real Maine wildlife! Hike, tour, and explore the trails of numerous area land preserves including:
- Barrett Park – On Linekin Bay, swimming, playground, picnic tables. Lobster Cove Road, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
- Damariscove Island – Site of one of the earliest American colonies (1605). Open to the public for hiking and bird watching (particularly nesting gulls and eider ducks). Over 200 rolling, treeless acres with a long gravel beach and narrow deep harbor.
- Dodge Point Preserve – Located on the Damariscotta River, there are 500 acres of forest, deep-water access, three beaches, and hiking trails. It’s located on River Road in Newcastle.
- Fisherman’s Memorial Park – A Dory monument was erected overlooking the harbor as a tribute to all the local fishermen lost at sea. Located on Atlantic Avenue, Boothbay Harbor (across from Catholic Church).
- Grimes Cove Beach – A local swimming area, located end of Ocean Point overlooking off-shore islands. You can walk here from Ocean Point Inn.
- Harold B. Clifford Community Playground – Modern and fun for all ages. Picnic tables and ball fields are also available. Located on Back River Road in Boothbay.
- Knickercane Island Park – A Boat ramp, picnic area, and swimming are among many activities to do here. Located on Barter’s Island Road in Boothbay.
- Linekin Preserve – A 94.6-acre parcel stretching from Route 96 to the Damariscotta River. There is 651 feet of river frontage and miles of hiking trails. Located off Route 96.
Visit Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens is another popular destination on the peninsula. Its numerous gardens provide a truly picturesque experience as they spread across 295 acres. The gardens are a living museum comprised of collections of plants managed for conservation, research, and education.
From pristinely cared-for flowers to waterfalls and stonework, the Gardens are beautiful to explore year-round. Walking the extensive beautiful planted grounds is a pleasure. This is a great stop to make in Boothbay Harbor and, since it’s open year-round, it offers a lot to see and do.
This includes holiday light displays, classes, narrated walking tours, lectures, and even the occasional party. A number of tours are available that will take you to see butterflies, blooming plants, and other things.
The largest botanical garden in New England, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, is where Gardens Aglow is held every November and December. It’s open daily from mid-April through October with special hours during the holiday season.
Walk and Shop in Boothbay Harbor
There’s nothing quite like a seaside stroll on a perfect day in Maine. Boothbay Harbor is a great place to walk with flower-lined streets, historic sites, and quaint local shops to visit.
While you’re out walking, be sure to take time and cross the Boothbay Footbridge. Built in 1901, this historic wooden walkway spans 1,000 feet across the inner harbor and the view of the harbor is truly something to behold. Out over the harbor, you’ll come upon 1902 Bridge House where you can read about the history of the bridge.
Some of our favorite Boothbay Harbor shops include:
- Enchantments is otherworldly and a great place to visit for its collection of beautiful, yet bizarre oddities. If you’re fascinated with the metaphysical, come in and peruse wind chimes and crystals, dragons amidst Buddhist fountains, tarot cards, and more.
- Finest Kind is another gem- a veritable museum of fabulous retro costumey clothes and décor for sale.
- Sweet Bay is right in the heart of Boothbay Harbor and offers a dazzling array of unique items, including sail bags, hand-painted items, and more.
- Smiling Cow is a seasonal gift shop that offers great souvenirs to remember your trip by, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, and even Christmas ornaments.
- Tide Pools is a shared space where local vendors can share and sell their amazing wares. Stop by to visit antique dealers, farmers, bakers, artisans, and others.
- Coastal Maine Popcorn will provide you with the perfect snack as you explore the best of Boothbay Harbor. Try classic popcorn like butter popcorn or caramel corn, or try one of many unique flavors, including spicy coconut curry and blueberry pancake.
Seek Out Historic Attractions
Boothbay Harbor has a few really cool places for couples and families to visit. There’s always time to learn something new while on vacation. They are packed with enjoyable exhibits and fascinating facts.
Boothbay Railway Village is a historical institution and museum that transports you to the mid-19th century, just after Maine became a state, and is especially entertaining for children. There are 60 vintage cars in the village, which is full of vintage structures. It’s the only location where you can travel on a genuine, narrow-gauge steam train through an imitation historical village. Various special events, such as auto shows, craft fairs, and old-time baseball games, are held by the organization on the Village Green.
The Pythian Opera House, constructed in 1894, hosts more than 100 public events and performances each year. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy jazz music or celebrate the holidays because of its historic charm. The main floor and second floor, which once housed the Pythian lodge, both have bars. When there are no public performances, the opera house serves as a venue for private gatherings and events.
Enjoy Boothbay Harbor Entertainment
Music and performances are excellent choices when you want to take in some of the local arts and culture. While Boothbay Harbor offers a variety of attractions and activities, these stand out as the best choices.
Enjoy dinner and a show at the Carousel Music Theater community theater. You’ll be served a three-course meal while talented actors and singers perform on stage.
Visit Cabbage Island and enjoy a clambake with the Moore family for the ultimate experience and entertainment. Every day, beginning at the end of June and continuing through Labor Day weekend, the family hosts a typical Downeast clambake. After the meal, you can explore the island and take advantage of its horseshoe pits and badminton courts as well as its wooded hiking trails and massive oak tree.
Play a Round of Seaside Golf
If you’ve ever wanted to play a round of seaside golf, you’ll get that chance at a championship-level golf course at Boothbay Harbor Country Club. Whether you’re a frequent golfer or you’re just looking to get outside, a round of golf in Boothbay Harbor is one you won’t soon forget.
The course is designed for comfort but is challenging enough to keep golfers on their toes. If you stay at the resort, there is a golf package offered. The beautiful landscaping compliments immaculate turf conditions and the course offers awesome views of the harbor.
The course features a full turf practice facility, TrekGPS units in each golf cart, caddie services, comfort stations around the course, and more.
Pay a Visit to the Maine State Aquarium
If you’re in Maine, it only makes sense that you’d look for chances to see marine life, right? There’s nothing quite like seeing majestic animals gliding through the water right in front of you!
The Maine State Aquarium, which is situated on West Boothbay Harbor’s shore, houses a collection of local fish and invertebrates in its main gallery’s granite-like cliffs. A visit to the Maine State Aquarium is a must for sea lovers, oceanographers, or just curious kids, where the largest lobsters come in all colors – white blue, and even calico.
Neptune is the jumbo male lobster in the lobster’s den, and there are lobsters of all shapes and sizes there. Additionally, you can see bottom dwellers, red sea anemones, squid, shrimp, and sea stars. Sharks and skates are two of the more fascinating species on display.
The Boothbay Aquarium even has a 20-foot-long touch tank that allows visitors to get up close and personal with some marine life from Maine such as live lobster and starfish.
Immerse Yourself at a Boothbay Harbor Art Gallery
If you consider yourself something of an art connoisseur, Boothbay Harbor has great art galleries that offer a great bit of culture.
Whether you just want to look at art or you’re looking for the perfect piece for your home, the galleries are a wonderful experience.
Joy to the Wind Gallery features work by John and Lynne Seitzer. The paintings displayed here offer a new look at Maine’s charm and the works celebrate joy, color, and more.
Studio 53 Art Gallery offers visitors a chance to see a wide variety of crafts by artists who work in a variety of media. There are regular events to showcase artists and there’s also a waterfront sculpture garden.
Gleason Fine Art features painters with works inspired by Maine’s majestic scenery. The works honor the history of Maine’s coast, especially from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Fun-Filled Events & Festivals in Boothbay Harbor
Boothbay Harbor is great to visit year-round for its annual events. The town’s festivals provide additional opportunities to become immersed in Boothbay Harbor and Maine culture. The town and surrounding area celebrate the qualities that contribute to the MidCoast’s allure throughout the year.
In April, Boothbay celebrates the annual Fishermen’s Festival, which includes fun activities like the Miss Shrimp Contest, lobster trap hauling, an old-fashioned fish fry, a boat parade, and much more!
The annual Windjammer Days is a local and tourist favorite with a fantastic fleet of ships under sail. Windjammer Days, an annual celebration sponsored by the non-profit Friends of Windjammers, takes place between late June and early July to officially start the summer season.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to rekindle old friendships, support neighborhood businesses, and pay homage to the area’s maritime heritage. In addition to stage performances, a parade of illuminated boats, and fireworks over the harbor, the festival offers a variety of other events. Watch beautiful windjammers sail into Boothbay Harbor and friendly pirates invade the town.
Sailboat races, boat parades, fireworks, kids programs, concerts, and more are all part of the fun of Boothbay’s Windjammer Days.
Visit Boothbay Harbor in October and see the best of Maine’s fall colors at the Fall Foliage Festival. It’s been going strong for more than 50 years and features live music, delicious food, vendors, and more.
The Fall Foliage Festival is a fantastic time to view the changing of the leaves. On the Village Green of Boothbay Railway Village, the celebration is held every Columbus Day weekend.
You can peruse handmade crafts and indulge in regional treats from dozens of vendors in addition to admiring the colors of fall in Maine. The organization sets up live entertainment as well.
More than 650,000 lights are displayed during the Gardens Aglow event, which takes place in the main garden of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. The festive display runs from mid-November through December and is the largest and brightest holiday light display in New England.
Do not skip the Harbor Lights Festival if you are in the area during Gardens Aglow. At the start of December, this holiday event ushers Santa and Mrs. Claus into the harbor. The festival includes many characters, including elves, lobsters, and moose. Other activities include lighted boat parades, town tree lighting ceremonies, and rides in horse-drawn carriages.
Where to Eat in Boothbay Harbor
Dining in Boothbay Harbor is typical of many seaside towns in Maine, but still equally delicious. Visit a dockside restaurant along the Piers at Boothbay Harbor and savor a lobster roll, steamed clams and mussels, and other seafood treats.
Or enjoy a succulent lobster dinner overlooking the beautiful harbor. Boothbay Harbor restaurants serve up some of the freshest local catches like fish, scallops, shrimp, and oysters! If seafood is not your thing, don’t worry – restaurants serve up a variety of other delicious food sure to please any appetite.
It won’t be difficult for you to locate a restaurant that satisfies your cravings when you aren’t at the clambake or music theater. Fresh seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes are served at most of the restaurants, which are located along the harbor. There is even a fantastic location for dessert.
The following are a few of the top restaurants in Boothbay Harbor:
Kaler’s Restaurant is a relaxed restaurant with a harbor view and a welcoming staff. Fresh seafood, chowder, and sandwiches, including the well-known Maine lobster roll, are all available on the menu. While you wait, try the gumball machine. If there is a lobster on your gumball, you win a free dinner.
Visit Mine Oyster for a truly special dining experience. Due to its location in an oceanfront, stilted building, there is no venue that is closer to the water. A raw bar is on the first floor, and three dining rooms, a bar, and a lounge are on the second floor. Naturally, oysters are on the menu, along with other favorites from the coast like a lobster roll and soups and salads.
The Boathouse Bistro in the heart of Boothbay Harbor offers a lively ambiance and a well-rounded menu that includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Cold and hot tapas, shellfish, sandwiches, and grilled foods are all offered at the tapas bar and restaurant. It also has a nice wine list.
Ports of Italy is the perfect place to go if you’re craving Italian food. It specializes in making its own breads, desserts, ravioli, and pasta. In an effort to benefit the neighborhood, all of its ingredients are sourced locally.
Stop by Sarah’s Scoops to satisfy your sweet tooth. A local family owns and runs this ice cream shop. The stand offers at least 24 different flavors of soft-serve ice cream in addition to a few limited flavors of sorbet, sherbet, and frozen yogurt.
More Boothbay Harbor Restaurants
The Blue Moon Café or the Red Cup are both popular morning spots. Leave your matey in line while you poke into nearby pirate shops till your table is ready. For coffee drinks, Brisetto’s Second Cup makes amazing lattes.
Coastal Prime across the Footbridge, at Boothbay Harbor Oceanside Golf Resort, offers fresh, local seafood, served with a side of harbor views and sunsets.
Boothbay Harbor is also home to classic sweet shops and Maine-made ice cream parlors. If you’re visiting with family and craving something sweet, you must make a stop at Downeast Ice Cream Factory. It’s routinely been voted one of the best ice cream shops in Maine and the nation and is one of the few ice cream shops to offer super-premium ice cream. There’s a flavor for everyone here and dozens of choices.
Where To Stay in Boothbay Harbor
Regardless of when you come or how long you’ll stay, we’re certain that you will find the Boothbay Harbor area is truly the soul of the coast.
Boothbay Harbor is a classic seaside Maine town – coastal, compact, cute with a cluster of great shops, fun cafes, beautiful inns, and a bunch of boat excursions leaving from the waterfront piers.
Boothbay Harbor is an ideal destination by car or by boat – and it’s a better bargain than say Kennebunkport or Bar Harbor. Boothbay Harbor lodging is often plentiful typically without the big price tag.
Start Planning Your Trip to Boothbay Harbor
A visit to Boothbay Harbor can be whatever you want it to be, so make your plans to visit this wonderful town today!
If you want to experience the wonders of Maine and see and do a little bit of everything, Boothbay Harbor is the place to be. The locals are friendly and the opportunities for shopping, sailing and exploring are as abundant as lobsters in summer. You’ll really be amazed by just how much Boothbay Harbor can offer in the way of food, entertainment, and access to the sea.
A visit to Boothbay Harbor can be a peaceful time to unwind and relax by the ocean, shop the village boutiques, to a more active vacation full of hiking, kayaking, biking, and other ocean adventures, or a family getaway that will create memories to last a lifetime.